Saturday, November 13, 2010
Under the heading of this personal space I have six adjectives identifying the characteristics of what I deem to be a properly centered evangelical Arminian. Certainly other Arminians of differing stripes and convictions will differ but from the seat I occupy, these six qualities represent what is best strived for in meeting the expectations of a biblical and evangelical Arminian Christian.
First is consistency, a rather bland expectation since everybody views themselves as consistent. However when pressed to examine oneself, it is near certain inconsistencies are revealed sometimes by our own introspection and often by the pointed observations of others. Perhaps the inverse of this is hypocrisy. None of us wish to be hypocrites yet every one of us falls into the category at some time or another. So to strive toward consistency from the perspective of Christian edification is very much an effort through faith and submission to Christ for the purpose of weeding hypocrisy out of our lives. If I decry and look with disdain the haughty declarations of God's judgment by liberal and emergent sympathizers against those who disagree, I had better not be shouting the same judgments against them for holding positions opposed to my own. I had better not be the hypocrite and instead be consistent with my embraced Christianity.
Next is for the evangelical Arminian to be conservative. This is not the mistaken conservatism opposed by the reactionaries in the liberal seminaries who brand everything conservative as fundamentalist and bibliolatry. It is instead a conservatism that stands fast against swaying winds and suspect doctrines and understanding that God is not doing a "new thing" every time a theologian publishes a new book and a new fad sweeps the church. Conservative evangelicalism recognizes an unwavering commitment to biblical truth rather than relevant truth that, just as Paul described" another Gospel", is really no truth at all. Jesus was born of a virgin girl and for purpose. Jesus did live a perfect life in the eyes of God. Jesus was put to death at Calvary and on the morning of the third day, did rise in resurrection. He is God in the flesh, LORD of Lords. The Bible is not a mythology to be taken in its "good" parts and dismissed as irrelevant for its "hard" teachings. Conservative evangelicals accept the Bible as true and infallible in all its parts and not subject to the whims of modern social mores.
Third is orthodoxy. By this I mean to point to the maxim presented by Vincent of Lerins, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus credituni est. This is an orthodoxy that has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. That is not stated in a hyper literal sense for we each differ on the fringes in how core doctrines should be presented and emphasized. Instead it is to state that orthodoxy, for example, defines for us how it is that man is depraved and how he came to be such. It declares the deity of Jesus Christ through the machinations of the scriptures, the apostles, the pillars of the church and the ecumenical consensus of truth. We cannot look at the doctrines of Calvinist predestination or the Methodist position of second blessings as truly orthodox in the sense presented here. Such teachings may or may not be heterodox but we cannot hold they have been the instruction throughout the church witnessed by scripture and the Holy Spirit. The consistent and conservative evangelical should embrace orthodoxy rather than follow the paths that crumble both consistency and conservatism.
Fourthly, one is to be evangelical. This seems obvious at first glance but there is more to this than just a word. I have come to view this term in the sense that to be evangelical is to embrace piety over ecclesiastics with regard to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My purpose and others as well, is not to bring souls into the Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist church. It is to understand and express the simple truths that souls enter into Christ by the grace of God through faith and that the church has many members and parts that encompass its whole, singular body. The body politic of the outward church is not the satisfaction sought by the evangelical Christian. It is souls won to Christ on the mission field.
The next attribute of the evangelical Arminian is a natural progression from the fourth. We are Protestant; not in the Lutheran sense but in our embrace of the early 15th and 16th century fight against the suffocations of anti-evangelicals. In a very real sense we should state that Evangelicals were birthed out of the German Protestant movement and in union with them advanced what we refer to as the Reformation. It has a declaration commonly shouted in the past as Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda. This is the church reformed and always reforming. Moving away from that declaration is to remove oneself from Protestantism and sound doctrine.
Lastly and most importantly we are Christocentric. That is our faith, our Christianity is not centered upon dogma, ecclesiastics, social comfort or denomination. It is grounded in a faith, a particular faith, trust in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. All else could wax cold and distant but if one's faith remains grounded in our Holy LORD, we know we stand on a firm, unshakable ground. As such we are Christian.
Putting these together we become a consistent, conservative, orthodox, evangelical, Protestant and Christ centered Christian, oriented within the Arminian perspective.